|Stephen in pursuit of Jane--nerdy/irresistible.|
Stephen Hawking is the most remarkable scientist of our times, the Einstein of our generation. His theories of time, the origin of the universe, black holes, even the possibility of alternate universes have startled the scientific world and caught the imagination of the public.
Hawking has strong beliefs and is not shy about expressing them. He is absolutely in favor of manned space exploration. He believes artificial intelligence may provide the answers to survival in a future fraught with environmental and other dangers, but AI itself represents a threat we may not have the brain power to overcome. He believes in alien life—and thinks we should be grateful we haven’t encountered any. He emphatically does not believe in God.
That we should know so much about this man and his ideas is a tribute not only to the impact of his expansive mind, but to the force of his personality. Hawking is not the kind of scientist to hide in his classroom or his lab and keep his theories to a select few. He has sought to share his theories of time and the universe with as many people as possible, through a series of popular books (A Brief History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell), public appearances, television shows and so on. His charisma has made it work.
All this despite the motor neuron disease that has progressively stripped him of the use of his body since the early 1960’s. He was a young man, still a graduate student at Cambridge, when he was first stricken with the disease related to ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and given a few years to live. He’s 72 years old now, confined to a wheelchair and forced to communicate by minute movements of his facial muscles, but his mind as sharp as ever. He’s living proof of the power of mind (and will) over matter.
But he didn’t accomplish the triumphs of his life alone. With him for most of the journey was his wife of thirty years, Jane Wilde Hawking. They met as graduate students, shortly before Hawking’s diagnosis, and were married despite the grim prognosis of the disease. Hawking has said that Jane gave him “something to live for” at this crucial stage of his life.
The story of this romance (and its eventual demise) is told in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, in theaters now. Actor Eddie Redmayne does a magnificent job with the role of Hawking, capturing both his nerdy youthful exuberance and his mischievous humor later in life. Redmayne also manages to convey subtle emotion through the tortured constriction of Hawking’s body as the disease progresses.
In some ways, Felicity Jones, in the role of Jane, has the tougher job trying to avoid being upstaged by all the dramatics going on across the boards from her. That, of course, was Jane’s problem, too. Hawking’s needs overwhelmed her at times, especially after children were added into the mix. (The Hawkings had three. As Hawking explains cheerily to a friend in the film, “Different system. Automatic!”) The requirements of his fame were no help, either. (The real Jane once said that her job was to remind Stephen that he was not God.) Jones conveys this sense of handling everything with aplomb while teetering on the edge of desperation beautifully.
Still, though Jane’s a good Christian, she’s no saint. When she joins the church choir under the direction of a handsome, recently widowed musician, complications ensue. She resists the temptation, only to find her husband has fallen for his new nurse. (And male reviewers say romance novels are unrealistic!)
In this somewhat sanitized version of Jane and Stephen’s story, the breakup of their long marriage is amicable, Jane and Stephen each marry their lovers and stay friends with each other, and there is a HEA of sorts as Stephen accepts an award from the Queen. The real story is a bit messier, of course. Although it’s true that Jane and the choir director are still happily married, Stephen and the nurse didn’t fare so well. Jane and Stephen are still friends, though. (It should be noted that the film was based on Jane's autobiography, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.)
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING may have followed a timeworn pattern of similar inspirational movies. Still, it had many moments of true emotion and fine actors in the leading roles. And for those of us who write SFR, who can resist a true story that mixes science and romance?